Friday, October 22, 2010

Good morning readers! It’s been a little while since my last post. I can assure you that as always, things are still busy and exciting here at BalletMet.

As many of you know, BalletMet is home to both a professional company and dance academy which we are very proud of, but, among all of the wonderful things here at BalletMet, we have something else we are extremely proud to share, and that is our Education and Outreach Programs.

Some of you may not be aware of BalletMet’s Education and Outreach Programs and their commitment to community involvement and student development. You should know that here at BalletMet, our Education Department’s mission is “to provide quality dance experiences that are informative, inspirational and accessible so that the entire community may appreciate and enjoy the art of dance.” This means that the Education Department wants to provide dance experiences for everyone. BalletMet also maintains a strong commitment to maintaining arts education in schools. Through its DanceReach programs, BalletMet strives to make dance education available for all students. Programming is constantly refined to increase educational impact and is designed to help students express themselves through movement, through their spoken words and through their writing. Programs such as Moving into Literacy and Morning at the Ballet focus on these goals. BalletMet also wants to ensure that every child has the opportunity to experience the ballet. Through its KidTix program, underserved children and special needs individuals are given the opportunity to attend a BalletMet performance. For many of these students, this performance is a first-time experience with the performing arts. I know I remember just how special my first performing arts experience was. Can you? If you can, maybe you remember how special you felt sitting in such a big, beautiful theatre. Maybe you remember how excited you were to see just what was behind that big red curtain or maybe you remember how you couldn’t stop talking about the performance after it was over. Maybe you wished you could see it again and again. No matter what we may remember, first experiences such as the ones BalletMet’s Education Department can provide are special, unique, and available for adults and children throughout the state. Though BalletMet is able to bring students to the ballet, the Education and Outreach Programs often go beyond the theatre and go directly into the classroom.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to speak with BalletMet’s Director of Education, Ambre Emory-Maier. Ambre has accomplished a lot during her time here. She has developed BalletMet programs such as Aladdin: Finding the Magic in Dance and Moving into Literacy and oversees the Dance Academy’s Scholarship Program. Ambre also has a dance background herself. Though she is a very busy lady, she was kind enough to answer some questions I had for her. I hope you enjoy reading some of the things she had to say. I know I enjoyed speaking with her.

How has your dance background helped you develop programs for BalletMet?

My dance training and the educational experiences I had growing up certainly had significant influences on me. My background has helped shape who I am, but no one person did that. You are who you are. Every experience you have and every person you come in contact with helps you grow and learn.

Ambre then went on to tell me that many of the BalletMet staff had dance backgrounds. How wonderful that people who grew up with dance are able to work around something they love so much.

Do you have any personal highlights or any particular stories that have stuck with you? Maybe about a particular child or group or class who seemed particularly moved or benefited by/from a program?

All kids benefit from the program, though it’s easier to see the impacts of experiential programming. At Morning at the Ballet, all the kids were talking to each other before the show started, and one of the kids was looking ahead to the stage and he said “is that a big screen”? It just goes to show the level of awe and wonder. For many of these kids, this is their first time experiencing the performing arts, and for many, it may be their only experience with them. With these programs, we are working on dispelling the stereotypes-the negative stereotypes. People may say “I don’t look like a dancer or move like a dancer or know anything about dance” but we want to show people that anyone CAN MOVE-and that has value.

I really like the ideas and goals behind Morning at the Ballet and Moving into Literacy. How are the programs designed to help students communicate through writing? Why do you think it’s so effective? Can you explain a little more about how these programs work?

We work to ensure that our programs are aligned with state standards and we attempt to cater to a school’s needs, such as programming to improve reading and writing. Our Moving into Literacy program is typically geared toward 2nd graders, but can be adapted. The programs can also be adapted to different school district’s learning curriculums. For example, in Westerville, they incorporated their lessons on Asian culture and wrote haiku poems. Other schools have focused on developing “how-to” writing. Another school did the program around fairy tales, and the children wrote their own fairy tales. Dance is just another language you can use to express yourself and communicate.

Aladdin, Finding the Magic in Dance is different. It’s designed as a curriculum unit-a 6 lesson unit and follows the creative process of BalletMet’s Artistic Director, Gerard Charles, from conception to the premiere of Aladdin. The program was funded by the Ohio Arts Council. It incorporates lessons in subjects such as math, drama and science. Teachers who participate in this program receive proper training in the elements of dance and in the curriculum itself. More than 90 teachers have participated in the program.

What are you most proud of? Is there a program you feel has worked really well or is there something about working for BalletMet that makes you particularly proud?

I’m proud of all of our programs; it’s hard to choose a favorite or something I am particularly proud of. I am really proud of our staff and I am proud of our mission. I am proud of what we do.

After speaking with Ambre, I know I am even more proud to be a part of BalletMet. For more information about BalletMet’s Education and Outreach Programs, please go to:

Do you have any special memories from arts experiences you had at school? Has BalletMet’s Educational Programming made an impact on you? Please post and share!

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